Star Wars EU Reviews: The Empire Strikes Back Novelization

5

Like the A New Hope novelisation this book offers just enough differences to make it an interesting curiosity, but not a necessity for EU readers who already know the film. In fact this book has less differences than the A New Hope novelisation did. For the most part Donald F. Glut’s adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back is virtually identical to the film aside from very minor differences.

Since the story of The Empire Strikes Back is known to all reading this review (or at least it should be) I feel that I have very little to review story-wise that would be beneficial. As I had pointed it is for the most part identical to the film. So in this review what I am simply going to do is point out and discuss some of the notable differences featured in the book in an organised, numbered fashion and let reader know my thoughts on them.

  1. The dialogue.Like in Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation the dialogue is the main difference. However, in this case most of the dialogue is only slightly different and is in no way as jarring as it is in A New Hope.
    That being said, I have had some sad disappointments with the differences here and there. Many classic lines that I loved in the movie are missing here or altered significantly. My favourite Darth Vader quote, “Apology accepted, Captain Needa” is completely absent and replaced with a scene where it is implied that Vader had the unlucky officer executed rather than killing him himself. Also Han Solo’s snappy and hilarious, “Chewie, take the professor and plug him into the hyperdrive!” is also missing. He doesn’t say it. I felt cheated.
    And worst of all in the carbon freezing chamber the famous “I love you; I know” dialogue is gone! Instead we get this pathetic rubbish:

    Leia: I love you. I couldn’t tell you before, but it’s true.
    Han: Just remember that, because I’ll be back.

    Effing terrible!

  2. Yoda is Blue!That’s right. Our beloved little Jedi master is blue not green. Blue is not worse than green per se, but we are so used to the iconic green skin that it is impossible to picture him in any other colour.

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    It’s just not doing it for me, I’m sorry.
  3. Enhanced Jedi TrainingUnder Yoda’s tutelage in the book Luke fights remote controlled orbs with his lightsaber. Lifting rocks is one thing, but this is totally different. I don’t know why this scene is not in the film, but I suppose it is for the best since the training did him little good anyway when you consider the objects Darth Vader hurled at him on Cloud City and Luke’s attempts at blocking them. I guess Luke never did comprehend Han Solo’s wisdom in pointing out that good against remotes is one thing while good against the living is something else. Maybe Han Solo should have trained Luke. He has been handier with a lightsaber than Luke has been so far.

 

There are other differences of course. But these are the ones that stood out the most. As a final statement I found this book to be an interesting and easy read, but as far as delving into the EU goes all you really need is the film. There are no exclusive references in here to my knowledge that make it necessary to read it to understand the rest of the EU books and comics. It’s an interesting curiosity, but nothing vital.

Check in next time for my review of Classic Marvel #39-44: The Empire Strikes Back comic adaptation.

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Star Wars EU Reviews: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye

Book 2

I have to be honest; I was not expecting much from this book going in. The Post-90’s EU era is what most EU fans are referring to when they praise it while the late 70’s/early 80’s was a different story. This was when the Star Wars comics Marvel was producing were going for a more Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon feel and the books were not taking any continuity with the comics and other media very seriously. This was the era that gave us the Holiday Special, had Luke having the hots for his sister big time, a six-foot green bunny rabbit joining forces with Han Solo, and blue and green skinned aliens with wings believing Luke was their messiah. It was a bizarre era where the EU was campy, kitschy, and in extreme conflict with the generally accepted canon of Star Wars lore.
So I must confess my surprise when Alan Dean Foster’s 1978 novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was actually good. If you remember what I said in my last review I was not a big fan of Foster’s prose. Here it is vastly improved and even better, the story is pretty damn good.

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was a project assigned to Foster to write what would become the official sequel to A New Hope – when it was still just called Star Wars – if the original film performed only modestly at the box office. Obviously Star Wars was a big hit and this book was never adapted into film. Instead we got The Empire Strikes Back which is in my opinion (and a lot of other people’s) the best of the Saga.
But, before all that Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was intended to be a low-budget sequel with no space battles, limited sets, and only the contractually obligated actors returning. Harrison Ford never signed on for three films opting instead to renegotiate his contract for each individual film in the trilogy which means Han Solo is no where to be found in this book. The only returning characters from A New Hope are Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, and the two droids C3PO and R2-D2.

The story is fairly simple. Luke and Leia are traveling to planet Circarpous IV intending to negotiate the currently neutral world to side with the Rebel Alliance rather than the evil Galactic Empire. Unfortunately, mining on Circarpous V – known locally as Mimban – causes atmospheric anomalies resulting in Luke, Leia, and the droids to crash on Mimban.
Mimban is a swampy tropical planet which I pictured in my head as sort of a combination of Dagobah and Yavin 4. After Luke and Leia meet up again after the crash they disguise themselves as miners and discover the Empire is running an illegal mining operation on the planet.
At a cantina Luke and Leia are approached by an old woman named Halla – who kind of reminds of Maz Kanata from The Force Awakens – who is a non-Jedi Force-sensitive who is seeking a powerful relic called the Kaiburr crystal which amplifies the abilities of a Force-sensitive who comes in contact with it. Halla owns a small shard of it, but desires the whole thing. In exchange for helping her find it she promises to help Luke and Leia get offworld so they can make to Circarpous IV to continue their negotiations.
During this time Luke had been pretending Leia was his servant to disguise her identity, however the way he treats her to make the effect convincing angers her and they get into a physical altercation outside of the cantina after making the deal with the Halla. This unfortunately draws the attention of other miners who interfere causing Luke to draw his lightsaber inevitably leading Luke and Leia to be arrested and brought before the sadistic Captain-Supervisor Grammel. This Imperial officer is small, petty man who gloats in what little power he has over those under him. He has Luke and Leia thrown into a cell just prior to receiving a report that an Imperial governor named Essada is interested in the prisoners for undisclosed reasons. Hoping to earn himself a promotion and higher esteem within the Empire he tried to interrogate the prisoners to learn what Essada could possibly want with them. When they do not cooperate he leaves them in their cell in frustration.
Their cell is shared with two large furry sentient aliens called Yuzzem who had been arrested for public drunkenness. Luke who has experience with this species befriends them. Halla ends up coming to their rescue and the group, including the two Yuzzem – named Kee and Hin – hijack a speeder and steal back the two droids. After a few misadventures involving a giant worm trying to eat them in the forest the group is divided after Luke and Leia fall into a pit.
Journeying on hoping to meet back up with their comrades the pair are captured by a species indigenous to the planet known as the Coway. They are a highly superstitious, tribal culture that hates humans believing them all alike after previous run-ins with Stormtroopers and Imperial officers. Luke and Leia find their companions also captured and Luke is told the only way to free himself and his friends is to battle in hand-to-hand combat one the Coway warriors. Luke reluctantly does so and defeats the Coway by using the Force to hurl a rock at his enemy’s head immobilising him. The Coways honour their agreement and free the captives and offer them hospitality.
The pace of the story quickens up after this with the Coways befriending the group and defeating a force of Stormtroopers after the Empire discovers their location. The Kaiburr crystal is found in an ancient temple devoted to a deity called Pomojema and there Luke battles Darth Vader in a lightsaber duel. The power of the Kaiburr crystal makes Luke a match for Vader and Luke ends up defeating the Dark Lord who falls into a pit. Luke, however, senses in the Force that Vader is still alive.
Halla claims she no longer desires the crystal and says it would be better in the hands of the Jedi rather than an untrained Force-sensitive who would only use it for parlour tricks and personal gain. Luke and Leia agree to take Halla with them offworld where she will be left to decide if she wishes to join the Rebellion or go where she will.

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is a much better story than anything in the contemporary Marvel comics had to offer. It was not campy, it respected the idea of the Force where the comics mostly tried to ignore it, and the old characters felt true to themselves and the new characters were interesting. It took me only about a couple days to read and it never bored me. It was fun and exciting being everything you would expect from one of the Star Wars movies. One notable detail is that this is the first instance of the word Force-sensitive being used in the EU or canon which is another example of concepts I thought were more recent existing further back in the Star Wars mythology.
Some things that may put some readers off is, of course, the many passages where Luke thinks about his feelings toward Leia. Modern Star Wars fans all know that Leia is his sister and some may find these emotions creepy. However, to be fair, Luke was not aware Leia was his sister and the attraction he has to her is apparent in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and not just the early EU. It is not entirely unreasonable he would be attracted to a girl his own age if he was not aware that they were relatives. And remember this is 1978. I doubt even George Lucas even knew they were siblings at this point!
Another thing that is a bit bothersome for modern readers is that Darth Vader addresses Luke Skywalker by name during their fight. This would of course reveal that Vader already knows that he is Luke’s father. The only explanation I can think of for Vader’s silence on the issue is that he may not have considered converting Luke to the Dark Side yet and so had no reason to tell him. At this point the Dark Lord was so steeped in the Dark Side of the Force that I doubt he was above killing his own son if he felt the need. It was feelings of emotional conflict later on that led him to try to bring Luke to the Dark Side and tell him who he was. This all goes to show that most issues with continuity are manageable if the reader is imaginative enough to provide an explanatory background to ostensible contradictions that crop up here and there.
But there was one thing in this book I really disliked and I shall point it out briefly here. I really did not care for the scene where Luke and Leia brawl outside of the cantina. As I said above the book kept their characters faithful for the most part, but here is where I question their acting like themselves. Leia trying to humiliate Luke by kicking him in the mud leading to a fight I thought was stupid and I would have rather seen them get arrested a different way in the story.
Otherwise, this was a fun read and an excellent story set in the Star Wars universe. I highly recommend it and I hope fellow EU newcomers like myself enjoy it as much as I have.

Check in next time for my review of the Marvel Comics adaptation of A New Hope (Issues #1-6 of the Marvel line) and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: A New Hope Novelization

Book 1

Welcome to the first entry in a series of reviews on the Star Wars Expanded Universe or EU for short. I shall be going over books, comics, games, and even Television shows and films that have spawned in the Star Wars universe for the past 40 years. And yes I will do a review of the notorious Holiday Special in the future.

That all being said here is the first review beginning with the novelisation of the first movie published in 1976.
A common misconception that needs to be avoided regarding this book is the notion that George Lucas is one who wrote it. Pretty much every copy of this book you find will have him named as the author and this has led people to think he penned it.However, the truth is that this was actually ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster who among other things later wrote Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and The Approaching Storm. Lucas indeed wrote the script for the film and this story is without a doubt his own, but it was Foster who actually penned the novelisation. Now with that out of the way I can go on.
One of the things that stands out the most about this novel is the differences it has between itself and the actually movie that was released nearly 6 months later the following year. Much of the dialogue is subtly different with phrases and words not being exactly how they were said in the film. This is not a big deal, but if you are like me and grew up with the movie to the point you can say back the dialogue word for word the differences can be jarring to a reader who finds himself stumbling on the differences if he makes the mistake of trying to hear the movie’s dialogue in his head as he reads this.
Another difference that is quite shocking is the prologue. Instead of the text of the opening crawl as seen in the movie we get a strange excerpt from a fictional book called From the First Saga: Journal of the Whills. Now I do not know what this book is, but the claims it makes in the excerpt are interesting to those of who have seen the Prequels. The prologue gives a brief summary of the Empire and how it arose. In one passage it says, “Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic….Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.”
This gives the reader the impression that Palpatine was just naive and easily manipulated by flattery and his own ambitions rather than the conniving, manipulative Dark Lord of the Sith as we see in Return of the Jedi and the Prequels. Also note that he became “President of the Republic” rather than Supreme Chancellor as the Prequels clearly state.
And speaking of the Sith this book refers to Darth Vader as a Lord of the Sith which of course is correct, but the word Sith was not used in any of the films until the Prequels came out and it is interesting to see that the term has existed in George Lucas’s mythology this early on.
There were some differences that I really liked. Many of the deleted scenes only watchable (legally) on disc 8 of the Blu-ray set are included in the novelisation. I am fine with the scenes removed from the film because they would have slowed the movie down, but in this book they are a welcome sight. We get to see Luke and Biggs at Tosche Station just before Biggs tells Luke about his plans to join the Rebellion. What’s great about this scne is that it explores a side of their friendship making the scene where Biggs dies during the assault on the Death Star more meaningful. In the original version of the film Biggs is introduced right before the assault begins so there is a complete lack of character development that leaves us wondering why Luke was so shaken by his death when so many other X-Wing pilots perished before him. The book helps explain that.
The scene where Han confronts Jabba the Hutt in the Docking Bay is also included. We never got to see this on film until the 1997 Special Edition and the scene is just as unnecessary and repetitive in the book as it was in the film. In fact, in the book it is even worse because Jabba is described as jumping with surprise when Han Solo approaches him (a feat obviously impossible for a Hutt). It is apparent that a very non-canonical vision of Jabba is implied in this book’s text and this is later confirmed in the Marvel comics adaptation which I will review in the third entry of this series.
Other differences are mild. Some of the names of the Imperial staff in the conference room scene are different and instead of the Red Squadron X-Wings attacking the Death Star as in the film they are described as Blue Squadron. These are minor though and do not really affect my enjoyment of the book.

Overall the book is a very faithful adaptation of the film with some added content and differences to make a curious reader have something new to look forward to. Otherwise the book is not essential reading and watching the movie is really all you need to do.
Some complaints I have is Alan Dean Foster’s prose. I am not extensively read in his work, but his writing is not that good here in my opinion and some of his ways of describing things is bad and ineffective.
The book is,however, an interesting curiosity; but I think it is in the large scheme of things fairly skippable.

Be sure to check in next time for my review of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and may the Force be with you.